I have been encouraged by my seminary professors to pursue counsel of those in my life who have walked down the hard road of entering into vocational ministry, and I thought that it may be helpful to some of you. Perhaps you to are thinking of going into the ministry, or perhaps you just need a better perspective on the journey of the gospel minister in your life. The subject of my interview was my own pastor Gordon Broadbent III, D.Min, referred to henceforth as Pastor Gordon. He has over 36 years of ministry experience and has been the Pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Klamath Falls, Oregon for over 4 years, but his service in the Lord’s ministry has brought him across the country and back, over the years.
He came to a saving knowledge of Christ at Ft. Dick Bible Church, in Crescent City California, and soon felt the call of pastoral ministry on his life. Just after graduating high school he pursued a biblical higher education, earning a Dip.B.S. from Moody Bible Institute and a B.A.B.S Studies from Biola University, after which he returned to Ft. Dick Bible Church, where he was soon teaching and eventually became the lead Pastor. It was under the early years of his ministry that the church saw significant growth, ballooning from around 90 people at the outset to near 300 towards the end of his tenure there. His success in ministry inspired him to deepen his theological training, and he obtained a M.Div and later a D.Min from The Master’s Seminary. After earning his M.Div in 1995 he resumed his preaching ministry at Lansing Bible Church, near Chicago, Il, and remained until accepting a call to preach at Immanuel Baptist Church (IBC) in 1998. This recent appointment brought him close to relations that are located in the city he grew up in.
Duties and Time Budgeting
Pastor Gordon delineated his ministerial tasks into 5 categories: prayer, study, discipleship, proclamation, and shepherding. Prayer can often be a neglected role in the life of a minster. There is no glory in it. Unlike the other tasks mentioned by Pastor Gordon, the church may never know if his duty to pray for the Church is neglected. Despite this, if you asked Pastor Gordon which of the task are the most important, he would probably say prayer. This is evident in how from the outset of his ministry at IBC, he prayed copiously for the myself, frequently mentioning it to me, and in my case he even specifed the time where he would daily pray for the me, 10:00 am. Pastor Gordon does so for many of those in his church, running through the church directory daily in his prayer time.
Study is also of paramount importance to Pastor Gordon, but it is something he does less now that he is nearing his 40th year of ministry. In the early years he did much more of it, working 70-80 hours a week, but says, “that was too much…that changed as time went along.” Adding that when he and His wife, Margorie, had children his time allotment for study diminished. The lord has granted Pastor Gordon a maturity that comes from experience, and he says that he is, “far less concerned with proving myself.” Even though he admits to over-studying as a younger preacher, it is something that has greatly benefited his ministry and his spiritual life. For example, when preparing for a study now, Pastor Gordon, “spends far less time searching for stuff.” This applies both to his mastery of the Bible and his familiarity with the reference materials that he has used for nearly four decades. With the assets of experience Pastor Gordon, after meditating on Sunday’s scripture throughout the week, “until I understand it,” spends most of Saturday preparing the sermon. He gets up early on Sunday morning to put the finishing touches on the message and also work on the lesson for Sunday School, which he also teaches
If you spend any amount of time with Pastor Gordon you will become aware of his passion for shepherding, and in the my experience, shepherding and discipleship are his biggest pastoral qualities. It is clear in the way he prays, the way he teaches, and the way he cares for the needs of his flock. Additionally, this quality comes out in his proclamation of God’s word and how he lovingly yet unapologetically declares even the hard truths of scripture.
The foremost qualification that Pastor Gordon gave as a requisite for the role of minster was, “He’s got to be a Christian.” Upon doing so, he seemed to find this to be a provocative statement, or one that might be taken as a joke, because he went on to say, “It’s not silly, I’m being serious. Some guys just there because they like to be up front and like to talk.” Another qualification that Pastor Gordon listed that is similar is the desire to be a Pastor.
Simply possessing the desire to lead God’s people does not necessarily qualify one to do so. The third qualification listed by Pastor Gordon was that, “they have some skill and ability to preach…and have some leadership skills.” Many people have shared the experience seeing a sincere believer, who earnestly desires to see God’s kingdom grow and makes the effort to make it so, only to see their efforts fail for lack of some important gifting. The tragic outcome of this can frequently be avoided, however, if the aspiring minister first meets the fourth qualification given by Pastor Gordon, confirmation. He says this is essential, “That you have the confirmation of not only Godly elders, but also the congregation, affirming your ability to teach, preach and shepherd.”
The final qualification mentioned by Pastor Gordon mentioned is another one that can be verified by the confirmation of church elders, and that is Godly character. Pastor Gordon deems this as vital, and rightly so, as it is the pastoral characteristic most cited in the Scriptures. He went on to emphasize how important it is that, “you are functioning in and have that character before you are even in that position.” Pastor Gordon would caution those who aspire to the position of teaching Elder, another name for Pastor, who would delay the work of mortification of sin, until after they have begun vocational ministry, perhaps even believing that this work will be easier once they are in a ministerial role. This is simply not the case. The time for killing sin is now, before the eyes of an entire congregation are watching. Ministers who do delay in this important work will be tempted to hide their sin when many eyes are upon them, and this is what often leads to Pastoral scandals that devastate the church.
The Ups and Downs of Ministry
Pastor Gordon was reticent to express any frustrations in his ministry, as he is enamored with most aspects of it, at one point gleefully exclaiming, “I get paid to study the Bible,” as if there could be no better vocation. After some prodding, he did think of a few frustrations but prefaced them with the remark, “when I say these things, I hope you keep them in the context that I love ministry, I love what I do.” He went onto describe two frustrations that come from the heart of a man passionate to see people come to Christ. The first was that, despite all of his efforts, he cannot change a heart and sometimes people will come into the church and may even appear to bear some spiritual fruit for a season, but they eventually leave. He states this is heart wrenching for a Pastor to see. The second frustrating thing about ministry was aimed at himself, and it has to do with a heightened sensitivity to sin, bringing about in himself a frustration with a lack of discipline and self-control.
The fulfilling aspects of ministry came much more readily to Pastor Gordon’s mind and he freely and excitedly shared them. Starting with just an overwhelming sense of gratitude that his job is to enjoy and grow in his knowledge of the most beautiful and wonderful person in the universe, Christ, and share that wonder with others. Pouring grace and blessing from God’s word into the lives of his beloved church, and it is not just with the church that a pastor gets to enjoy this profound honor, but the lost world, and seeing sinner come to a saving knowledge of Christ was also high on Pastor Gordon’s list of ministerial benefits. Finally, he added that seeing many prayers answered in people’s lives was very fulfilling.
Advice for Future Ministers
Pastor Gordon, true to his shepherd’s heart, had firm advice for aspiring seminarians, or any who seek the role of a teaching Elder. The most important advice has to do with understanding who it is that you are serving in the role of Pastor, and that is God. Some pastors forget this and begin to treat the church as their employer, or worse, as their host, but there will only be one sitting on the seat on the throne on judgment day, and every other mouth will be stopped. This should not only affect the way a minister loves the Lord’s church, but also the severity by which he guards the teaching of the word against error. For it is the word that the Lord has given as His primary means of communication to His church.
Pastor Gordon had three other advisements that, while they may not be as stern a warning as the first, are still vital for pairing ministers. First of which is to get a mentor, a godly older brother who can help guide young seminarians away from bad directions. Similarly, he would encourage seminarians to get to know their professors as they typically fit the mentor criteria, are very knowledgeably in theology, and have great connections in Christian and academic circles. Secondly is to “watch over your soul.” Ultimately the seminarian is accountable for their own spiritual well-being, and it is all too easy to embrace an erudite knowledge of theological ideas, to the neglect of one’s own soul. Finally, the seminarian must be faithful where they are at – and not seek to exult himself. Ultimately it is God who is exultation.